Israel started construction work on 1,850 new housing units in the occupied West Bank in 2011, a 19 per cent rise from a year earlier, an Israeli settlement watchdog said Tuesday dpa reported
Peace Now attributed the rise to a partial, 10-month moratorium on new constructions in the West Bank that the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed in 2010 to spur peace talks with the Palestinians.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas suspended direct peace talks with Israel in October 2010, after Netanyahu refused to extend the moratorium. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met this month in Jordan for the first time in over a year, but there was no progress.
Peace Now said the Israeli Housing Ministry last year issued tenders for an additional 1,577 West Bank apartments, whose construction had not yet started.
The figures exclude East Jerusalem, which in 2011 witnessed the highest number of construction plans in a decade, Peace Now said. Some 6,350 apartments planned in Jewish areas of East Jerusalem passed various stages of approval, it said.
Israel regards all of Jerusalem, including the city's east which the Palestinians want as a capital of a future state, as its "eternal" and united capital, a move not recognized internationally.
The Israeli government last year also began procedures to legalize 11 unauthorized settler outposts, containing a total of 680 structures set up near authorized settlements, Peace Now said.
Attempts by the Israeli army and police to uproot such outposts are often met with resistance from some settlers, who believe they have a biblical right to the land. The plan to approve some outposts is designed to appease them.